times of crisis
- What is resilience?
- What resilient employees have in common?
- How can we, as individuals, become more resilient?
- How can we build resilient teams?
- Any crisis can open opportunities
- Imposed action vs. Ownership and freedom.
- Breaking paradigms
- Are we going back to normal?
- Shared pain brings people closer together?
- Engaging remote teams
- FUN remote work
In times of crisis, by default we let fear drive us towards a fixed mindset instead of embracing the growth mindset necessary for creativity and resilience.
COVID-19 is impacting companies around the world, causing cancellations and budget cuts that force leaders to make difficult decisions. Millions of people must adapt their processes, priorities, and habits to respond to the current circumstances.
In these times of uncertainty, resilience is key to overcome the challenges and quickly adapt to the current situation.
We’re strong believers that collaboration and knowledge sharing are the strongest tools to fight the COVID-19 crisis. So we decided to put our brains “together” on an online webinar to discuss best practices and share habits for managing setbacks, here’s what we talked about.
For us, being an event based company, it was a hard blow.
Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was one of the first conferences to be cancelled due to the risk of an epidemic. Soon after, the World Health Organization declared the situation a Global Pandemic.
Under this state of alarm, events, congresses, and conferences were cancelled across the globe. The domino effect soon struck our organization, quickly affecting our cash flow.
What did we do? Firstly, before the governments of the countries where our teams are based applied social distancing measures, we went fully remote. We constantly and transparently updated the team on the global situation and its implications on our operations and finances.
Then, we established a number of meetings and worked on quick sprints to tackle the urgent matters and design new products compatible with the current situation. The most notable and effective measure, however, was enabling our team members to adjust their priorities as they believed was best for the organization. Everything was looking kind of good until we had that Oh, Sh!t moment. We realised we had been operating for years with a contract that didn’t cover cancellations or postponements, and 100% of our events were being cancelled or postponed. Ouch!
We asked partners who had to postpone their events for solidarity payments to cover the work that had been already done and delivered. Most of our partners accepted, this gave our admin team a good night’s sleep. Obviously, we made adjustments to our contracts to protect us if major circumstances arise in the future
More than 300 fuckuppers (local organizers) were unable to organize their upcoming events, so we started a series of online, countrywide or regional, Quarantine Editions.
The first event was hosted in Italy, one of the most affected countries since the coronavirus outbreak.
Digital seemed the only way to continue delivering learning experiences for corporations. Even though we had already organized online events for some of our partners in the early days, we saw an increase in demand for our online webinars, workshops modules and digital corporate events.
It’s safe to say that in just two weeks, we did 3 months worth of work on the digital front.
Let’s stop talking about us.
Now, what is resilience?
In Ecology, resilience is the capacity of an ecosystem to recover from perturbations. In Physics and Engineering, it’s the ability of a material to absorb energy, deform and reform.
In humans, resilience is the capability of recovering quickly from failure or adversity, and not only returning to the status quo but actually using the opportunity to grow and extend personal development. Therefore, failure and resilience are the two sides of the same coin.
What resilient employees have in common?
Resilient employees share a few characteristics:
- Connected: They have strong connections and relationships with others, often keeping in contact with colleagues outside of their own immediate work setting, getting involved in other activities like sports, clubs, or after work drinks.
- Supportive: They’ll do what they can to help another person to achieve success in the workplace. The resilient worker is a team-player who aims for a win-win with their fellow employees.
- Fun: They don’t take the working environment too seriously. This doesn’t mean they don’t care about their jobs. They introduce an element of ‘play’ to the workplace, which fosters creativity and positive emotions amongst employees. Basically, they don’t worry about things that aren’t under their direct control.
- Balanced: Resilient workers manage stress effectively so it’s not overwhelming and detrimental. This is key to avoiding burnouts.
- Part of Something Bigger Than Themselves: Lastly, they’re committed to their job and perceive their work as meaningful and useful. They’re passionate about what they do.
How can we, as individuals, become more resilient?
Resilience is an ability that can be learnt, built and developed by anyone. There are a few habits and triggers that can help us get there:
Train your attention and awareness. Pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, behaviours, and psychological reactions.
Practise meditation or yoga regularly. Along with increased resilience, training focused on these exercises can also decrease your stress and anxiety while boosting your quality of life.
Be more positive. You’ll be able to adapt to adversity more easily. Putting energy and motivation into work with a positive attitude is associated with building personal resilience.
Develop your emotional intelligence and learn how to manage your emotions.
Achieve a healthy work-life balance. Workers need time to relax, unwind and recuperate. Setting yourself free from work will reduce stress levels and increase your focus, productivity and general wellbeing.
How can we build resilient teams?
Now that we’ve learnt how resilience in individuals looks, let’s dig into some resources to help build resilient teams, these are methods that we put into practice at Fuckup:
1. Checklists and Guides: They’re a helpful way to provide employees with a resource they can turn to when dealing with a challenge. A couple of examples are: dynamic role descriptions, workflows that are constantly improved and updated, and all-hands meetings for reviewing quarterly goals and OKRs to bring clarity and focus.
2. Training: It helps team members develop a group understanding through sharing best practises, facilitating cohesion and positive team coordination. It’s important to not limit training to specific teams, since some good practices are transversal across different company levels. For example: Our Movement team sometimes joins our Enterprise team training, bringing new perspectives, tools, learnings, and innovation.
3. Debrief Sessions or post-mortems: After any challenge or failure, we open a space to analyse the situation and the learnings that came from it. This encourages reflection on the experience and enables team members’ to support with their area of expertise. On many occasions this process includes an action plan for the team involved.
4. Work Culture. Finally, team culture is key to building resilience. It is the team leader’s or supervisor’s responsibility to create the right atmosphere for his/her team. Examples:
- We have one hour, all-team meeting every Friday called FUN Friday (FUN as in Fuckup Nights). The main agenda is to talk about topics that make us better humans and aren’t specifically work related. We have talked about death, gender, systemic inequality, what is art, the limit of humor, and much more.
- We also do 2 Team Retreats per year, send gifs and memes on Slack, weekly team lunch, etc.
5. Open Space. An open atmosphere encourages team members to speak up and ask difficult questions. Openly sharing bad news, and reporting early warnings are signs of a healthy culture, or as we like to call it, a space of Psychological Safety. Seek out expertise rather than simply relying on another colleague’s rank or seniority; or offer support if you can help reduce the consequences of a setback.
These open spaces can take place in almost any medium: One on ones, team meetings, slack channels, etc.
At Fuckup Nights, we all send a weekly report that includes a section for challenges and Fuckups, these can range from particular project difficulties to personal issues (mental health, work, parenting and family etc.) Seeing this section empty is extremely rare.
Any crisis can open opportunities
In moments of crisis, things turn messy and chaotic, circumstances change at high speed, and with that comes a unique chance. When things are changing so rapidly, minds can change at the same pace.
The Common Knowledge Effect – that indirectly imposed way of thinking that dominates habits in organizations – disappears, because behaviours and processes that had always worked, aren’t working now.
A crisis provides us with the opportunity (or the need) to do things differently. This urge provides us with the possibility to unlearn old processes and routines, and build a foundation of good new habits. Our mindset becomes malleable.
It’s all about which habits we choose to face the crisis with.
Imposed Action vs. Ownership and Freedom
It’s important to ask ourselves not only the question of how are we going to face this crisis, but also how are we going to look when the storm passes.
As mentioned earlier, habits and processes can change during a crisis, but which ones should we reinforce?
Some governments have tackled the virus with totalitarian surveillance regimes including extreme individual monitoring measures; others, empowering citizenship, with measures based on transparent communication, information and massive testing.
Both measures may be equally effective in solving the problem, but which approach brings us closer to a brighter future?
Measures taken by companies often follow similar patterns: imposed action or ownership and freedom.
Every crisis is an opportunity to break those dusty conventional paradigms that limit our work opportunities, processes and lives.
Governments, who are well known for reacting slowly, have now taken arguably quick action to challenge the status quo, regardless of the huge social, political and economical consequences of their decisions.
Companies have been forced to act the same way, breaking paradigms in all kinds of different ways. What was impossible to even imagine, started to happen in the blink of an eye.
An easy example is the Grocery industry: Walmart’s grocery app and Shipt increased 218%, many of these consumers would have never attempted to download an app to buy their groceries, and many of them will continue to shop online after the health alert is over.
In a matter of days, we completely changed our personal and professional routines, and we’ve been taking measures at a level of speed never seen before in corporations. These forced changes make us understand that it is possible to become agile, shift priorities and adapt quickly to changing circumstances. These skills can change the way we organize our work.
It is well known the urgent always takes over the important. In fast paced working environments there’s never enough time to solve all urgent matters, let alone work on something only important.
In many industries, urgent decisions are being taken as you read this. But once we have focused on the urgent, we will probably face a reduced rush in activity and will have an opportunity to work on the important, at least, until we go back to normal.
But… Are We going back to normal?
Most likely not. Huge changes are taking place day after day affecting social behaviour, politics and economics, and it is highly unlikely that we will just revert back to normal.
Why is this good news? As we saw above, many new habits will become business as usual. What we’ve built to fight this crisis can still be used in the future.
Resilience is not the ability to return to the same shape after a crisis, but to adapt to the shape of the new environment. We have an opportunity to re-think what has always been taken for granted, re-shaping our industries for a better future.
Shared Pain brings people Closer Together
The assumption that this crisis is bringing us closer together might sound paradoxical, since most of us are self-isolated.
However, there is scientific evidence that shared pain, challenges and trauma, generate a stronger bond in groups and a higher feeling of belonging. This results in a more collaborative society. Exactly the same happens in less complex social structures, like teams and organizations.
With the right efforts, we can build processes that strengthen the connection and empathy among our team members, improving communication, shared purpose and, ultimately, productivity.
This same principle also has an enormously positive consequence: solidarity.
Many individuals and organizations started to use their skills, expertise, facilities or logistical infrastructure to support those affected by the outbreak.
Examples range from fashion brands using their textile factories to manufacture masks and gowns for hospital workers, to apps offering their premium features for free to make quarantine less complicated, hotels donating beds and rooms for saturated hospitals, or professionals offering their business skills to other organizations that are close to bankruptcy.
“Although the oceans separate us, the same moon unites us.”
“Inditex, owner of Zara, is donating face masks and using its factories to make hospital gowns for healthcare workers in Spain, and putting their logistical empire at the disposal of government for importing medical equipment; joining many other retailers and professionals that are stepping up to help fight the global coronavirus pandemic.”
Engaging remote teams
For many, this crisis carries another challenge, going fully remote. Some companies have always been afraid that people will work less if working remotely. Research shows the opposite.
Those in the U.S. have logged on for an additional three hours per day compared to patterns seen before March 11 — a 40% jump — according to data from virtual private network service provider NordVPN Teams
How can we homeoffice without losing focus, productivity or our minds?
The main challenge that teams can face while working remotely, is to have clarity about their daily tasks, especially in times of crisis where priorities are rapidly changing or adjusting.
So the first thing we did was ask ourselves how we can continue to reach our goals in these times. Then as a team, we over communicated the path that we were taking, what were our KRA (Key Result Area) deliverables, what will measure and how will we report them.
The book Flow states that to have an optimal experience and enter a state where you feel productive, creative and inspired you must experience (among others) three characteristics which are relevant to this matter:
- A clear goal that provides you with immediate feedback: This can be achieved by setting activities, deadlines and specifics on the deliverables, so the person knows how they are progressing in their goal.
- A challenging activity that requires skills: We must assign our teams with tasks that they have the chance of completing because they are trained or have the capabilities and also that they feel challenged to do so, this adds a new level of complexity to keep them engaged.
- A sense of control over their actions: The person assigned must feel the full ownership and decision making of the task, that’s when they feel compelled to bring their most creative vision. If they don’t feel part of the creation they could lose attention.
Here are some questions that could help you to share your purposes, give clarity and over communicate your path:
- What have I accomplished to make my team feel glad I work here?
- How does winning look today?
- Why does what we do matter?
PS Make sure your team knows that they are part of something bigger than themselves.
FUN Remote work
Here’s the structure we’ve defined at Fuckup 🙂
- Establish your daily priorities: We share our activities for the day with the team on Slack.
- Evening wrap ups & Daily Stand ups: We have daily catch ups (you can also name it Ketchups) to see how our projects are going in priorities and progress 15-30 minutes.
The structure of these meetings is the following:
- Celebrate- advances and achievements
- To discuss- brainstorm together new ideas to reach our goals or to improve ongoing projects
- Initiatives- assign and create tasks to reach our goals, person (responsible), what (specific task), when (deadline)
The unwritten rules of our meetings are the following:
Time-framing: be aware of your time participation in the meeting, e.g. if you are in a meeting of 30 minutes with 5 participants, if you respect your team’s collective intelligence, you will talk for 6 minutes on average, because you want to hear others opinions to build a better solution together. That time-framing change in your mindset will help you to better select your thoughts and words
Over-justifying: we don’t believe that fancy talk enriches our arguments, so we keep it simple. We don’t give 34 examples and analogies for our thoughts, we don’t over-explain things, we try to be as concise as possible with our opinions.
Listen & Echo: we aren’t thinking about our response while listening to others opinions and we don’t interrupt. But we echo other opinions when we agree, and most importantly we have the difficult conversations when we disagree because that creates a greater outcome.
Humanize meetings: That means that if our daughter appears in the call, our cat runs across the screen or our dog barks, that’s ok and above all we make it FUN
Tips and Hacks for Remote work:
- Don’t work on a task more than 45 minutes
- Tidy your up before and after work
- Don’t mix social media and work, better to have 15 minutes breaks in which you can catch up.
- In videoconferences put your camera on 🙂